One of most New Zealand’s most geographically-unique vineyards – sitting on a glacial terraced isthmus surrounded on virtually 90 percent of its boundaries by a deep plunging loop-shaped ravine – has been placed on the market for sale.
Ballochdale Estate sits at the tip of Marlborough’s highly-productive Awatere Valley – making it the highest altitude vineyard in a valley renowned for its superior pinot noir and sauvignon blanc crops. Sheer cliffs surround the vineyard’s perimeter - dropping several hundred metres into tributary gullies which flow into the Awatere River.
The sheer-cliffed isthmus setting was selected for planting by vineyard founders Garry Neill and his wife Sara Neill some 16-years ago - using an ancient Italian viticulture practice of setting alight multiple early morning small scrub bonfires to observe airflow movements swirling over the peninsula into the gorges below.
The freehold property at 220 Ballochdale Road in Awatere Valley is now being marketed for sale by negotiation through Bayleys Marlborough. Bayleys Marlborough salesperson Andy Poswillo said the greater property consisted of 114.93 hectares of freehold land – with the 31.6-hectare vineyard encompassing 18.3 canopy hectares of pinot noir grapes totaling 57,934 plants, and 13.3 hectares of sauvignon blanc grapes totaling 33,493 plants.
Mr Poswillo said the land currently not under canopy was used for grazing livestock, with the potential for further development into vine plantings.
“Under its current format, Ballochdale Estate has a three-year average tonnage cropping history of 161.29 tonnes of pinot noir – with this year’s vintage yielding a peak 194.81 tonnes and 201 tonnes of sauvignon blanc. The vines are now all well-established and produce consistently high yields – both in quality and tonnage,” he said.
“It is Ballochdale Estate’s combination of altitude being some 300 metres above sea level, its sheltered location sustaining favourable airflow across the plantings, the northerly aspect of the vines, and the evenness of the soils which all amalgamate to produce some of Marlborough’s best grapes.
“These factors all aid in minimising frost risk. The property falls approximately 55 metres from top to bottom – with six frost fans providing sufficient frost protection to the vineyard.”
Building infrastructure on the property consists of a four-bedroom/two-bathroom residence in park-like grounds with several mature trees and a landscaped lake. Two restored and refurbished 1890 railway carriages provide additional guest accommodation.
The vines are irrigated by a naturally-filled storage dam built on the property in 2000 and consented to hold 85,000 cubic metres of water. Ballochdale Estate owns the dam exclusively. Mr Poswillo said Ballochdale Estate operated in accordance with the certified Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand policies.
The vineyard has previously supplied several of New Zealand’s big-name wine labels – with most of the pinot noir hand-picked at optimum maturity.
Among the labels which have sourced Ballochdale Estate pinot noir and sauvignon blanc grapes in their stock over the past decade are: Willa Maria for its reserve and cellar selection ranges, Esk Valley, Matua Wines Jules Taylor Wines, Constellation NZ, Claymore Vintners, and Astrolabe Wines. Mr Poswillo said Ballochdale Estate has a small percentage of the upcoming 2019 harvest committed to Pernod Ricard – allowing an incoming purchaser the choice of several recognised wine companies expressing interest in securing the state’s fruit.
The higher undulating terraces within the block feature a loessial clay loam Medway Hills soils overlaying a layer of shingle about 1.6 meters below the surface. Meanwhile, the lower and flatter terrace is made up of a deep stony Wither loam soil.
“In the main, sauvignon blanc is planted on the lighter soils, with the pinot noir rooted on the tighter denser northern aspect clay loam. The vineyard was planted straight into existing undisturbed soil, with no contouring done during the vineyard development,” Mr Poswillo said.